Home > Once Upon a Time > Once Upon a Time: On Being a Hero and Biting the Apple

Once Upon a Time: On Being a Hero and Biting the Apple


There are times where so many things seem impossible. Where someone tells you that you can’t do something, or the situation looks bleaker than a night on the bayou. Situations like that are considered hopeless, a lost cause – the place where sane, reasonable people lay down their arms. Because there’s no point in fighting, anymore. What lies ahead is a dragon or worse.

And yet, in moments like that, there are people who charge ahead anyway. There are people who refuse to quit, who do not yield, and who cling to principles and heart – rather than probability and doubt. This type of person looks at a situation, as dire as it may be, and sees that maybe something will change. That maybe, even when things seem hopeless, there’s no merit in giving up. Because then, the only thing you’ve guaranteed is that all possibilities have been abandoned.

This kind of person? Is a hero. In yesterday’s episode of Once Upon a Time (An Apple as Red as Blood), we have several examples of this: Snow White and her friends in Fairytale Land AND Henry in Storybrooke. I’d also propose that Mary Margaret in Storybrooke is a hero for a moment, a flash of her kickass self laying into Emma, who was going to run like a coward.

You see, Emma might be the savior of legend, but she isn’t a hero yet. She is, as Mary Margaret pointed out, regressing to her old self – the person who attaches to no one, who is beholden to no one, responsible for no one, and who runs when things get complicated.

Except that there’s Henry, her son. Who, despite all of her idiocy and fear, she wants the best for. She is grief-stricken when Archie points out all the trouble Henry’s gotten into, since Emma came to Storybrooke. What Archie doesn’t point out is that Henry is the one who began it, before even meeting Emma. He stole Regina’s credit card and tracked down Emma. Perhaps she isn’t the impetus for his slightly delinquent (though well-meaning) behavior. Perhaps it’s the circumstances in the town, which no one seems to consider.

In a perfect contrast of heartbreak, there’s Snow White in Fairytale Land, trying like Hell (with all her kickass friends, who made me cheer like crazy) to save her true love, Prince Charming. In an effort to spare his life, she willingly eats an evil, magic apple that traps her within her body as if dead. In the moment the magic hits her, the reverberations of it shoot through Charming, who feels the loss as if it were his own. A beautiful, poignant scene that reminds us that we often sacrifice ourselves for love, real love – that we would do anything to save that other person. (This is perfect, distilled love – not selfish, jealous love that sometimes runs rampant.) Snow fights to save her love with everything that she has. She puts her life and herself on the line. There’s nothing more profound than that. She took a fairytale bullet for Charming. It was hard to watch, because honestly? Who doesn’t want that kind of love?

This, of course, is the exact opposite of Emma – who chooses to leave Storybrooke for a myriad of reasons that read more like the excuses on an emotionally underdeveloped teenager. “You’ll be better off without me.” “We’ll still see each. It just won’t be every day.” The reason that Emma is so nervous and distraught as she tells this to Henry is because SOMEWHERE, deep down, she knows that this dead wrong. There was a reason she chose to stay in Storybrooke, and it may have been for Henry in the beginning (what happened to her stalwart strength that we saw in the first few episodes? The woman who would cut down an apple tree?) – but she stayed for the people in the town, those she cared about. Archie. Mary Margaret. Even David. She, honestly, made their lives better. And now she’s going to run away?

Not so fast. You see, Regina (with the help of the Mad Hatter – who I thought had gone back to Fairytale Land in the magical hat that Emma made. I don’t quite understand that bit) snatches the same evil, magic apple from Fairytale Land. She makes a delicious looking turnover of Apple Evilness and gives it to Emma, after they make a deal that Swann will leave Storybrooke. That moment had me YELLING at the screen, because COME ON, EMMA. Accepting candy from strangers is one thing, but accepting an apple turnover from a person of less than benevolent origins? She framed Mary Margaret, and now you’ll going to snack on the ONE apple turnover that just HAPPENED to be in her oven?

Of course, it doesn’t come to that. When Emma spills her paltry guts and pathetic explanations to Henry, the poor kid yanks on every heartstring in the human body. In a moment of revelation, he spies the turnover and makes an absolutely heroic choice: he sees it for what it is, but takes a bite anyway. To show Emma that the curse is real, that Regina is really the evil queen, and to keep her from fleeing Storybrooke. Henry, like Snow, makes the ultimate sacrifice.

That is a move that Emma will not be able to ignore. She may have willfully failed to see August for what, and who, he is – but her son? He’s the most steady emotional connection that she has. And now he’s in danger, because of Regina. Because of what Regina was trying to do to HER. I think, if I had to guess, we’re going to see more Apple Tree Chainsaw moments. From here on out, Emma must take her stand to fight for the only thing she’s really been willing to fight for: her son. This could be what brings Emma to her true self. (Also, notice that she’s wearing the red leather jacket again? Not a coincidence. Also, I really, really, really want that jacket. SO BAD.)

One thing I need to applaud is Mr. Gold’s pitch-perfect seething rage, kept in check behind a “dearie” and “all magic comes with a price.” It’s wonderful to see a bit of his Fairytale persona bleeding over into Storybrooke. I found myself wondering, exactly, how much magic he was able to carry over into Storybrooke. Regina said that all her magic lies in the objects she was able to bring over – and Gold has a giant shop FULL of objects from Fairytale Land. This has to come into play at some point, right?

I’m looking forward to the season finale – to seeing what Emma does, what she risks, and if David and Mary Margaret finally bury the hatchet of stupidity past. To quote from the Princess Bride, death cannot stop true love. I doubt a few flubs, or poison apples, or creeping doubts can stop it, either. Because wuv, twu wuv? It doesn’t happen every day. When it does? It’s worth risking everything for. It’s worth fighting for, even when it might seem hopeless.

Categories: Once Upon a Time
  1. May 7, 2012 at 8:55 am

    So thrilled I’m able to watch the episodes again (I’d missed about 3). I AM confused by the memory thing… why do Regina, Mr. Gold, the Hatter and Pinocchio all have memories of before, but no one else does? I’ve missed something there…

    • May 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

      Regina and Mr. Gold are powerful magical beings — and I think their ability to remember must’ve been part of the curse. The Hatter, I think, remembers because he went a little mad before the curse took hold. I’m not exactly sure about him. But Pinocchio remembers because he came through the magic wardrobe; since he was older than a baby (like Emma was), he retained his memories.

      • Anonymous
        May 7, 2012 at 9:09 am

        Right! I did see the one where he shows Emma the tree. My son figures it’s because Regina and Gold cast the curse in the first place, that’s why they remember.

  2. May 7, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Thank you, once again, for giving this show a level of depth that I wouldn’t have considered without your analysis!

  3. May 7, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Okay, I’m now so invested in this show, I wanted to see the finale as soon as last night’s episode had ended. Like, “Now, please – I want more.”

    Emma is the archetypal Reluctant Hero. While we all sit and scream, “believe, dammit” she is trying to deny her calling with every ounce of energy. I think we have to remember that she might have come from a magic land, but she was raised without a shred of it in her life. No magic, no dreams, just a hard, pragmatic life. It will take a lot for Henry to convince her.

    Did you read the TV Guide interview with Jennifer Morrison? Got me all a-tingle for next week’s show. http://www.tvguide.com/News/Once-Upon-a-Time-Jennifer-Morrison-1047004.aspx

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